Haunted Fascination
Horror, Cinephilia and Barbara Steele
in Film Studies
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Regarded by fans and critics alike as the Queen of Horror, Barbara Steele stands as one of the few bona fide cult icons of the genre, whose ability to project an uncanny blend of deathliness and eroticism imbues her characters with a kind of necrophiliac appeal. Horror film scholars have tended to read Steele‘s films in feminist terms, as texts that play to our fascination with the monstrous-feminine. This article approaches them from a different standpoint – that of cinephilia studies. Steele‘s cult horror films are at their most basic level horror movies about cinephilia, presenting her as the very embodiment of the ghostly medium that cinephiles cherish. In so doing, they convert Steele into a necrophiliac fetish-object, an intoxicating fusion of death and desire. Considering Steele‘s work from this perspective reveals the fluidity of the boundary between horror and cinephilia, demonstrating that horror has something important to teach us about cinephilia and cinephilia has something important to teach us about horror.

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